Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It

Summary Written by Alyssa Burkus
"...work is something we do, not a place we go."

- Why Managing Sucks, page 26

The Big Idea

Wake Up! We Need A Better Way

"We’ve learned that when people have complete control over all of their time, they begin to use it wisely to optimize every aspect of their lives, including work."- Why Managing Sucks, page 6

We see countless studies on employee engagement, with employees who are frustrated by inconsistent work practices, combined with increasing financial and family pressures. They are overwhelmed and unable to contribute fully to their work.

The authors argue that we are over-managing the work schedule by insisting on set times and places to work (with employees focusing on face-time with the boss or colleagues), and seeing poor productivity from our efforts.

Still not convinced? Here’s how it can work.

Insight #1

Don't Manage The Hours, Manage The Work

"...one of the biggest, most dangerous management traps is focusing on time."- Why Managing Sucks, page 72

For managers and employees, it is much easier to manage by the clock. If the employee is at their desk at the expected time, both parties may choose to believe that success will follow.

In a ROWE, employees decide how, when, and where they will get work done. If you’re thinking “we have a flexible work environment so it must be a ROWE”, flex work policies simply confuse the issue. The control is still with the manager to set guidelines, ensure the policy is followed, and employees are “checking in” from their home office during business hours. In a ROWE, there’s no set schedule, no check in – you focus on getting the work done.

Managing by time doesn’t help us get the right work done. It’s easier for managers to work this way, because they can see their employees and may believe that means they know the work is getting done, but as the authors tell us, we need to manage based on clear, measurable outcomes, not by time.

“An authentic ROWE is, in its essence, a contemporary work culture built on the foundation that we hire people for clear, measurable results.”

Hmm, no set schedule? If you’re thinking that this feels like you will be expected to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, guess what? Most employees already are. The difference with ROWE is that “every day feels like Saturday”. You manage all of the aspects of your work and your life, and you are in the driver’s seat.

Well, does ROWE = anarchy? On the contrary.

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Insight #2

No Results, No Job

"Everyone was hired to do a job. They need to be clear about their measurable results. If they can’t meet results, no job."- Why Managing Sucks, page 30

All this time, we’ve been focusing on the wrong thing. We’ve been reprimanding employees for being late, and avoiding conversations about outcomes. Or worse, we’re unclear about what exactly is required, leaving everyone to work in ways that aren’t driving business results.

One of the biggest challenges for managers in moving to a ROWE is they now need to set clear goals, and deal with performance issues quickly. Employees need to understand that they are responsible for getting the work done, and managers must focus on ensuring outcomes are met. “HR should be coaching managers to be results-focused and objective, and not to cling to old subjective beliefs about what work should look and feel like.”

They are clear to say – this is “disruptive social change.” Implementing a ROWE in its truest form won’t be easy, but it is the only way to address the significant workplace issues we face today.

The book is packed with ideas, client testimonials and suggested tactics for starting to make ROWE-like changes immediately, even in environments like education, healthcare, and manufacturing. If you lead people or have a boss, this is a book to read as a team and start to explore how you can create a ROWE for your organization. Studies show ROWEs have significantly higher productivity and employee engagement, and can be a marketplace differentiator.

Read the book

Get Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It on Amazon.

Cali Ressler

Cali Ressler, along with her partner Jody Thompson, is the Founder of CultureRx and co-creator of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). Her first book, Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, was named “The Year’s Best Book on Work-Life Balance” by Business Week. She has been featured on the covers of BusinessWeek, Workforce Management Magazine, HR Magazine, Hybrid Mom Magazine, as well as in the New York Times, TIME Magazine, USA Today, and on Good Morning America, CNBC and CNN. Cali is also a nationally recognized keynote speaker and has presented to numerous Fortune 500 companies and prominent trade associations. Cali and Jody created ROWE based on the belief that the traditional solution of flexible schedules is not the answer to managing life’s many twists and turns.

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